How Is Alimony Calculated?

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Determining alimony is typically one of the more straightforward aspects of divorce proceedings. However, this doesn’t mean that it is easy or painless. In a divorce, even the simpler things tend to be quite difficult. Each state has laws that determine the factors to be considered when awarding alimony payments, so the judge shouldn’t have too much difficulty in deciding an amount once both sides have pleaded their case.

Alimony payments exist to best ensure that both sides are able to maintain the standard of living that was established during the marriage. If that isn’t possible, then the goal is to make sure that both sides take on the financial burden equally.


In a simplistic calculation of alimony paid from a working spouse to a stay-at-home parent, alimony is the cost of maintaining the marital standard of living, minus child support. The difference is the alimony payment that the working spouse will pay. However, in most cases, the math isn’t quite that simple. There are often other factors that can affect the amount of alimony that will be paid.

California family law attorney B. Robert Farzad warns that an alimony calculator can be deceiving because they can give you a false sense of security. The figure you end up with after your lawyer’s calculations may be significantly off from what the calculator says. The best way to get an accurate estimate of what your alimony payments will be after the divorce is finalized is to consult with an attorney who can walk you through all of the steps.

What Factors Come Into Play?

Several things can come into play in determining alimony payments. All of the following will be taken into consideration when the court is determining this figure.

Custody and Child Support

If you have children, child support can greatly affect your alimony payment. Custody and child support are determined before considerations for alimony. Until you are in a fairly advanced stage of your divorce proceedings, it can be very difficult to determine what your alimony payment will be.

Alimony makes up the difference in maintaining your marital lifestyle. Until all factors of child support payments are deducted from your lifestyle costs, alimony cannot be accurately determined.

Tax Laws

It is important to understand how alimony payments are taxed, whether you are the payer or the payee. As everyone knows, laws and taxes are complicated. In order to properly understand the tax laws associated with your alimony payments, it is best to consult with a divorce attorney.

Other Expenses

Another important factor in figuring out alimony payment involves the other expenses that come into play. Before you can figure out alimony payments, you must figure out what you are doing with your shared assets after the divorce. If the spouse that is paying alimony moves out of the family home but continues to pay the mortgage, this will affect how much they owe the other spouse in alimony.

The Marital Standard of Living

With the objective of alimony being to maintain the marital standard of living, or as close to it as possible for both parties, changes to income that occur after the separation won’t necessarily impact alimony payments.

If the partner who is expecting to pay alimony gets a raise at work after the separation but before the divorce is finalized, the extra money most likely will not factor into the decision. Alimony is meant to match the standard of living established during the marriage, not what the standard of living would have been had the marriage not dissolved.

However, if the standard of living established during the marriage was not able to be met with the previous income, due to extra expenses such as separate living spaces, then the extra money earned might be taken into consideration to meet the marital standard of living.

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